Category: Broadcast Radio

Using an RTL-SDR Blog V3 in Direct Sampling Mode to Receive HF DRM on an Android Phone

Over on the SWLing blog contributor Dan Van Hoy wrote in and shared a report on how he's successfully been able to receive HF DRM 30 digital audio with an RTL-SDR Blog V3 dongle running in direct sampling mode on an Android phone.

To do this he used an Android app called "DRM+SDR Receiver" which is available for US$4.99 on the Play store. The app supports RTL-SDR and HackRF devices. So all you need to do is set the RTL-SDR Android driver to run in Q-branch direct sampling mode, then tune to a DRM signal for it to begin decoding.

A demonstration video uploaded to his Google drive account shows clean decoding of the DRM AAC audio, as well as the app displaying Journaline and live metadata. He notes that his signal was very strong, so he only required a short wire, but DXers would need an appropriate antenna.

DRM Received on an Android phone with an RTL-SDR Blog V3 running in direct sampling mode.
DRM Received on an Android phone with an RTL-SDR Blog V3 running in direct sampling mode.

Tysonpower Reviews A Cheap 15€ DAB/DAB+ USB Receiver Dongle that Generates an MP3 Stream

Thank you to Tysonpower who wanted to share his review of a cheap 15€ DAB/DAB+ receiver USB dongle that he found on eBay.de (we also found the same device on eBay.com for US$23.99).  The device is not an SDR, but it receives BAND III DAB/DAB+ at 160-240 MHz and generates an MP3 stream which can be played back on any MP3 capable device such as a PC, single board computer or car head unit.

His review notes that the dongle works well. When you plug it in the device shows up as a storage device. You then simply press a button to automatically search for DAB+ channels, and then choose one of the mp3 stream files that will show up to play live DAB+ audio on your device. In his video he also gives a quick tear down, showing that it uses a FCI FC8080 demodulator and a MVSilicon 32-bit Micro with audio FFT accelerator.

While RTL-SDR dongles can also be used to receive DAB+ cheaply with software like SDR-J and welle.io, this may be a simpler method since it can be used on any device that can play MP3s.

Note that Tysonpowers video is narrated in German, with English subtitles. He also has a short blog post with images from the tear down.

[EN subs] DAB+ für nur 15€ Nachrüsten! - Digitalradio für alle MP3 fähigen Geräte mit USB

SignalsEverywhere: Decoding HD Radio with an RTL-SDR

Corrosive (KR0SIV) from the SignalsEverywhere YouTube channel has uploaded a new video that explains and shows HD radio being decoded with an RTL-SDR.

If you are in the USA, you might recognize HD (Hybrid Digital) Radio (aka NRSC-5) signals as the rectangular looking bars on the frequency spectrum that surround common broadcast FM radio signals. These signals only exist in the USA and they carry digital audio data which can be received by special HD Radio receivers. Back in June 2017 we posted about how [Theori] was able to piece together a full HD Radio software audio decoder that works in real time. Later developments saw additional data such as traffic data and weather info extracted from HD Radio too.

Corrosive's video also shows a comparison between analog and HD Radio audio. We note that the "HD" doesn't stand for high definition, so audio quality is not really better than the analog stream. He also notes that the HD Radio data stream can contain multiple audio channels, and often they are not the same as the analog station it surrounds. One example he shows is a Simulcast AM radio station being rebroadcast via HD Radio.

HD Radio RTL-SDR Decoding vs Analog Radio

QIRX SDR Now Shows Received DAB Transmitters on A Map

QIRX SDR is an RTL-SDR compatible program that focuses on DAB+ decoding and listening. In a recent update programmer Clem notes that the newest feature is a map powered by OpenStreetMap that can display a the location of received DAB stations. He writes

The main new feature is the integration of Openstreetmap to display the locations of DAB transmitters (please see attached picture of a raw recording from England), together with the own position of the receiver.

In case the transmitter ident code (TII) is detected and the transmitter is contained in the database, it is displayed on the map as an icon, colored according to the TII signal strength.

The "Own Position" is indicated as a red or green dot, either (without GNSS sensor) placed by dragging the red circle with the mouse to its correct position, or by attaching a GNSS (GPS or GLONASS) sensor.

When recording raw I/Q data, the GNSS positions are written into a second file, parallel with the .raw file. On replaying, the current recorded geolocation is displayed synchronously to the recorded transmitters on the map. This might be useful in a mobile environment. The distances are displayed in the TII table.

The transmitter database comes from two sources:

  • UK: Public OFCOM database,
  • Rest of Europe: DABLIST (www.fmlist.org), as provided by the UKW/TV Arbeitskreis e.V. (www.ukwtv.de).

Currently, both databases are merged into a single, local Excel file, serving as the data source to the software.

QIRX SDR Screenshot with OpenStreetMap and Received DAB Transmitter Locations Showing
QIRX SDR Screenshot with OpenStreetMap and Received DAB Transmitter Locations Showing

Creating a DAB+ Radio Station with a LimeSDR

Thank you to Godrey L for submitting his article/tutorial that shows us how to broadcast a DAB/DAB+ radio station using a LimeSDR and ODR-mmbTools. The LimeSDR Mini is a US$159 12-bit TX/RX capable SDR that can tune between 10 MHz – 3.5 GHz, with a maximum bandwidth of up to 30.72 MHz. ODR-mmbTools is an open source DAB transmission chain which is compatible with USRP and LimeSDR SDRs.

DAB stands for Digital Audio Broadcast and is a digital broadcast radio signal that is available in many countries outside of the USA. The digital signal encodes several radio stations, and it is considered a modern alternative/replacement for standard analog broadcast FM.

The tutorial is split into four parts. The first part simply explains what SDRs are and in particular discusses the LimeSDR and how it can be used with ODR-mmbTools. Part two discusses what hardware you need, and explains what each component of the ODR-mmbTools software does. Part three gets into the actual setup of the software on Linux. Part four finishes with actually transmitting the signal and decoding it with an RTL-SDR and the Welle.io DAB decoder.

The end result is a DAB radio station with three stations being broadcast.

LimeSDR Transmitting 3 DAB stations, and receiving it with an RTL-SDR and Welle.io.
LimeSDR Transmitting 3 DAB stations, and receiving it with an RTL-SDR and Welle.io.

QIRX SDR Beta 2.0.1.0 Released: Improvements to DAB Scanner, Recorder and Spectra Display

QIRX SDR is a multimode SDR program compatible with the RTL-SDR. One of its defining features is that it has a built in DAB+ decoder. Recently beta version 2.01 of QIRX SDR was released which has some scanner, recording and spectra display improvements. We note that the beta version appears to be a DAB decoder only, with no multi-mode features. The new features and improvements include:

Scanner:

  • Configurable w/r to the Muxes to be scanned and/or included in the usual set of Muxes being used.
  • New algo, considerably faster
  • "Scan forever" feature, interesting for DX-ers wishing to observe Muxes over a longer time, particularly together with TII logging.
  • Selectable waiting time after recognition of a Mux, for TII logging.

Recorders:

  • TII Recorder: File structure improved, now directly importable into Excel, with TAB as separator.
  • Audio Recorder (DAB+ only): Format selectable between WAV (as usual) and pure AAC (with ADTS headers). The latter allows for high-quality recordings compressed by at least a factor of 10 compared to WAV. The popular Foobar2000 app is able to play these files. Not seekable yet though, because embedding in a suitable container is not yet implemented.

Spectra:

  • CIR with different scales (Samples, Distance, Time)
  • Indication of the correlation peaks used for the "FFT Window" determination in the CIR spectrum.
QIRX SDR Beta 2.0.1.0
QIRX SDR Beta 2.0.1.0
 

Welle.io DAB/DAB+ Decoder Version 2 Released

Welle.io is a Windows/Linux/MacOS/Android/Raspberry Pi compatible DAB and DAB+ broadcast radio decoder which supports RTL-SDR dongles, as well as the Airspy and any dongle supported by SoapySDR. It is a touch screen friendly software which is excellent for use on tablets, phones and perhaps on vehicle radio touch screens.

Thank you to Albrecht Lohofener, the author of welle.io for writing in and sharing his news about the release on welle.io version 2.

welle.io 2.0 Beta 1 released

I’m happy to announce the version welle.io 2.0 Beta 1. Since the first rtl-sdr.com post roughly two years ago (Mar 2017) welle.io became the leading open source DAB/DAB+ SDR. Many people are using welle.io in their daily life and gave a lot of feedback.

With all this feedback we started developing the version 2.0. Apparently, the biggest change is the complete redesign of the user interface (GUI). It changed from a dark design to a bright design and handles easily different screen resolutions and orientations.

Many users asked for a favorite list, automatic playing of last station and a mute button. Now these features are ready to test with the 2.0 Beta 1!

Another new feature is the settings menu where users can set the hardware receiver with all the necessary settings. This is more user friendly than the command line parameters.

For people with a deep technical interest we improved the expert mode a lot. In addition to the spectrum users can also view the impulse response, null symbol and constellation diagram, even at the same time! An experimental I/Q RAW file recorder as well as a debug output window is available for systems without a text console.

In the back-end we improved the multi-path behavior and started a source code refactoring to allow the code to be easily maintained. Great thanks to the people from the Opendigitalradio association (http://www.opendigitalradio.org/) which are actively contributing to this project.

Now it is possible to build a complete DAB/DAB+ system (transmitter and receiver) with open source!

As a result from this collaboration welle-cli is available. The main use case is to monitor DAB/DAB+ transmitters networks over the internet. Thus it has a HTTP API and includes a basic Web page which shows the features.

Everyone is invited to test the new version and to report issues. For reports we recommend to open an issue at the welle.io Github page (https://github.com/AlbrechtL/welle.io/issues).

We are also looking for people who would like to contribute to welle.io (translations, web page, documentation and development).

Download link: https://github.com/AlbrechtL/welle.io/releases/tag/v2.0-beta1

We wish everyone a happy New Year!

Welle.io Standard Mode
Welle.io Standard Mode
Welle.io Expert Mode

Measuring Broadcast FM Multipath Distortion with an RTL-SDR

Over on GitHub user jj1bdx has just released a new tool called rtl_power-fm-multipath which can be used for estimating broadcast FM multipath distortion with an RTL-SDR. Broadcast FM multipath is caused when a signal is received from multiple directions due to it reflecting off and refracting through physical objects like buildings and terrain. As the reflected/refracted signals will be delayed it can cause echo like distortions in the RF signal which can cause issues like poor digital decoding, poor FM audio reception and ghosting in analogue video.

The multipath distortion estimation method works by measuring the ratio of the strength of direct/reflected radio waves which results in the desired/undesired (D/U) ratio. This measurement method was proposed by Komiya87 and JushinFM who both wrote papers in Japanese describing the method. In summary the methodology is:

  • Measure the maximum peak strength for +-50kHz spectrum of the target FM station
  • Obtain the maximum value (Lmax) and minimum value (Lmin) within the spectrum
  • Obtain the ratio of the maximum and minimum values L = Lmax / Lmin (note: Lmax and Lmin are real values (not in dB), and L must be > 1)
  • The estimated D/U ratio R = (L+1) / (L-1) (in the real value, not in dB)

The rtl_power-fm-multipath program is based on rtl_power and works by using rtl_power to record power measurements for 5 minutes, then sending the data to a peakhold function which computes the maximum power value for each frequency, and then calculations the distortion ratio.

An example of Multipath Distortion on a DAB+ Signal. From Gough Lui's post https://goughlui.com/2015/03/28/trip-to-hk-cn-2014-part-5-rtl-sdr-more-radio-ais-night-photos/
An example of Multipath Distortion on a DAB+ Signal. From Gough Lui's post at https://goughlui.com/2015/03/28/trip-to-hk-cn-2014-part-5-rtl-sdr-more-radio-ais-night-photos